Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘tree

Pink and blue

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Did you know that as recently as the first part of the 20th century people in the United States took pink to be the appropriate color for boys and blue the appropriate color for girls?

For aeons before then, firm against all sociological winds, the pink flowers of the Mexican buckeye tree (Ungnadia speciosa) had been standing out against blue skies on sunny days. They’ve kept doing so since then, as they did on March 14th at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and they’ll keep on doing so for aeons to come.

In contrast, or you might say un-contrast, here’s a picture of Mexican buckeye flowers on the same tree but with no blue showing at all:

UPDATE. When I did exact Google searches for “against all sociological winds” and “against sociological winds” I got no hits, but I did get 160 hits for “sociological winds.”

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 29, 2018 at 4:49 AM

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Bombs and blooms: strange connections

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Some of you have heard about the bombings in Austin over the last three weeks. This morning I turned on the local television news channel and learned that a little while earlier the bomber had blown himself up when police closed in on him in Round Rock, a large suburb bordering Austin on the north. Now investigators were apparently searching the house in the adjacent town of Pflugerville where the bomber lived. Police had thrown up a cordon to keep people from getting closer than a couple of blocks away, so the television station’s crew couldn’t approach the house. They did the best they could and showed a long shot, in which I made out a street sign at an intersection close to the bomber’s house: on the sign I read the name Wilbarger.

Wilbarger! In a 2012 post, which happened to appear during this very week in March, I presented the true and seemingly supernatural story of Josiah Wilbarger. After six years I see no harm in telling this marvelous story again, so I’ve copied it below with its original title. By further coincidence, I was already planning to go out today in quest of flowering huisache trees, which was the initial subject of the 2012 post.

UPDATE. On the website of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission I confirmed the surprising identity of the person who illustrated Indian Depredations: “T.J. Owen, better known as the author William Sydney Porter (O. Henry).”

“Survival”

Yesterday’s post told you about a venerable huisache tree, Acacia farnesiana, that I used to enjoy visiting and photographing, but that I found out on March 23 had recently been destroyed to make way for a new building. That tree was growing close to a creek in northeast Austin called Tannehill Branch, which continues under the adjacent street and forms the northern boundary of Bartholomew Park. The creek also nurtures half a dozen well-established huisaches growing along it. Those trees offered—and being in a park will continue to offer—some consolation for the destroyed huisache; I spent the better part of an hour taking photographs of them, including this one in which the nearest branches lean forward and in so doing create a ring of flowers surrounding the center of the tree:

This location on Tannehill Branch is close to the spot where one of the strangest events ever recorded in Texas history took place. It has nothing to do with plants or photography—the picture above has given you your daily dose of those things—but it’s such an unusual and compelling story that I’ll include it here for those of you who would like to keep reading; just be aware that you may find some of the details disturbing. The following account of what happened is from the 1890 edition of an 1888 book with a long title (as was common back then): Indian depredations in Texas : reliable accounts of battles, wars, adventures, forays, murders, massacres, etc., together with biographical sketches of many of the most noted Indian fighters and frontiersmen of Texas. The author was John Wesley Wilbarger, a brother of the Josiah Wilbarger described in the account. The Hornsby mentioned in the first sentence was Reuben Hornsby, one of the first Anglo settlers in what is now Austin; Hornsby Bend along the Colorado River near Austin’s airport was named after him.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 21, 2018 at 2:00 PM

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The end of winter

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Today, March 20th, marks the official end of winter this year. Nature in Austin hadn’t waited that long. The photograph above, taken six days ago at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, shows a possumhaw tree (Ilex decidua) that had largely greened out while still densely laden with the bright red fruits it wore all winter. A clear blue sky pleasantly set off the other two colors. Aiming upward near midday let sunlight transluce the new leaves.

(Not long ago you saw a landscape view from Valentine’s Day showing a possumhaw in its winter form, which is to say totally leafless.)

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 20, 2018 at 4:45 AM

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Texas mountain laurel

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The Texas mountain laurels (Sophora secundiflora) have been fragrantly—and some would say flagrantly—flowering all around Austin.

I took pictures of this Texas mountain laurel on March 13th along Shoal Creek Blvd. in north-central Austin. One of the tree’s branches rose well above the others:

The next day I visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, where I got close and photographed a Texas mountain laurel flower opening:

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 16, 2018 at 4:55 AM

It’s spring

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Redbud tree (Cercis canadensis) in north-central Austin yesterday.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 14, 2018 at 4:40 AM

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Possumhaw fruits brightening a misty morning

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Several times the bright red fruits on a bare possumhaw tree (Ilex decidua) had caught my eye along the route that lets traffic heading southeast on the access road of US 183 merge onto the southbound access road of Mopac. On this year’s cool and misty Valentine’s Day morning I finally celebrated the red by parking as close as I could to the possumhaw, walking across several lanes of intermittently coming cars, and then stepping onto the ground beyond, there to wield my camera. Today’s picture gives no hint of the noisy traffic zooming by less than a hundred feet away on Mopac. Mixed in with the possumhaw are some bare branches of flameleaf sumac (Rhus lanceolata). The greenery in the lower right is from a related bush with the apt name evergreen sumac (Rhus virens).

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 12, 2018 at 4:58 AM

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New Zealand: the retrospective from a year ago concludes

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Well, folks, it’s been fun reviewing some of the sights and sites that made our 2017 visit to New Zealand so memorable. I’ll admit it’s not hard to do that in such a scenic country.

Like the past several posts, here’s a last one from Cathedral Cove on March 7th. It’s something that Georgia O’Keeffe might have felt right at home with if you allow dried-out driftwood to take the place of a sun-bleached animal skull.

I’d planned to take pictures for one more day on this trip, and in particular I wanted to go back to Whangaparaoa, where I’d seen some colorfully appealing patterns on Little Manly Beach in 2015. Alas, even as we drove back to Whitianga from Cathedral Cove, drops began to fall (look at the dark sky in the upper left of the photograph), and the rain continued heavily all through the night. When we went to check out of our apartment the next morning to head for Auckland, the manager told us that so much rain had come down that both roads off the Coromandel Peninsula were washed out. We ended up spending an extra day in Whitianga with little to do, given the yucky weather. By the morning of March 9th, one of the two roads off the peninsula had reopened and we made it to Auckland with a few hours to spare before we had to check in at the airport for our flight home. Adiós, New Zealand.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 10, 2018 at 4:44 AM

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